Based on computer simulations, astrophysicists at the University of Bern conclude that comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko did not obtain its duck-like form during the formation of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago. Although it does contain primordial material, they are able to show that the comet in its present form is hardly more than a billion years old.
Canadian researchers have charted a path that most likely pinpoints the very origins of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the comet studied intensively by ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft. Western University astronomers believe that 67P is made from primordial material and relatively new to the inner parts of our solar system, having only arrived about 10,000 years ago.
The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft closed in Thursday for a deliberate crash landing on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Friday, a slow-motion kamikaze plunge to bring the enormously successful mission to an end after more than two years of unprecedented close-range observations.
Comets are known to be a mixture of dust and ice, and if fully compact, they would be heavier than water. However, measurements have shown some of them to have densities much lower than that of water ice, implying that comets must be highly porous. A new study of low-density Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko using data from ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft rules out a cavernous interior.
Since its arrival at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August 2014, ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has been surveying the surface and the environment of this curiously shaped body. Now that the comet is experiencing a brief, hot southern hemisphere summer, its south polar regions have emerged from almost five years of total darkness and it has been possible to observe them with other Rosetta instruments.
Comet impacts on Earth are synonymous with great extinctions, but now research presented at the Goldschmidt geochemistry conference in Prague shows that early comet collisions would have become a driving force to cause substantial synthesis of peptides — the first building blocks of life. This may have implications for the genesis of life on other worlds.
ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has witnessed 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko make its closest approach to the Sun (perihelion) at 3:03am BST on 13 August, when the comet came within 116 million miles of our nearest star. Rosetta’s measurements suggest the comet is currently spewing up to 300kg of water vapour and a metric tonne of dust every second, creating dangerous working conditions for the spacecraft.